So the first of many Yankees vs. Red Sox battles in 2010 is in the books and this time the Yankees have drawn first blood.
The latest sub-chapter in the continuing saga of this battle of superpowers had everything: an improbable, Fenway-style comeback in the first game, a sloppy Yankees' comeback the next game, and an extra-innings pitcher's duel complete with a dramatic finish to close the three-game set.
Little can be derived from the first games of a season but even less can be learned from an early season Sox-Yankees series. CC Sabathia bottled up the Sox for five solid innings on Opening Night before Boston roared back with a three-run sixth, chasing the Yankees' ace from the ball game prematurely.
Conversely, Red Sox ace Josh Beckett got knocked around right out of the gate, lasting just 4 2/3 innings. After giving up five runs on eight hits, Josh made an early exit of his own. In the end, the contest amounted to a rock-em sock-em video game with Boston battering the New York bullpen into submission for the 9-7 win.
After an off day, Game No. 2 on Tuesday saw another pair of top-tier pitchers getting knocked around by power-laden lineups. Neither A.J. Burnett nor John Lester made it past the fifth with both hurlers throwing 95 pitches — a good amount of them out of the strike zone.
With the game tied 4-4 it was on to the bullpens once again. But this time the Yankee arms locked down the game and the win. Alfredo Aceves, David Robertson, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain and ultimately Mariano Rivera
combined to post four scoreless innings. And after Hideki Okajima walked Nick Johnson with the bases loaded, giving the Yankees the lead in the eighth, New York cruised to a 6-4 victory. The factor that was their downfall in game one became their greatest asset in game two, especially after Burnett's continued Fenway struggles.
So all that was left to display was a pitchers' duel — an order Andy Pettitte and John Lackey were happy to fill Wednesday night. After going six strong innings each, both pitchers left in a 1-1 tie. On this night all the Yankees' needed after Pettitte was Chan Ho Park and, as usual, Rivera. Park was very good over three innings, allowing zero runs on one hit (albeit living dangerously close to the warning track on more than one occasion). And although he only struck out one batter (Big Papi), Park found ways to get the opposition out which proved effective (lucky?) enough to set up the requisite extra-innings heroics.
On Sunday night Curtis Granderson welcomed himself to the Yankee universe in a big way, blasting a 400+ foot shot into center field in his first at bat for New York. Homering against Boston at Fenway is a good way to instantly endear yourself to Yankees fans. But at the end of the first game it was Granderson who made the final out with a runner on base. While New York fans love dramatics, ultimately winning is the only way to become a "true Yankee."
So on Wednesday Granderson decided to take his mission for Yankee credibility one step further. Coming up in the top of the tenth with no outs, Curtis' confrontation with Jonathan Papelbon went much different on this night than it did on Monday. Instead of a feeble ground ball this time, Granderson slammed a homer to right, giving the Yankees the lead, the game, and the series.
So while it may be true that little can be taken from games played so early in the baseball season, one thing will definitely come out of this: one hell of an ovation for Curtis Granderson the first time he walks upon the field at Yankee Stadium.
Photos via yahoosports.com